Bloomberg: NYC is Poorer Today Thanks to Albany Inaction
Mayor Bloomberg had harsh words for New York State’s Democratic leadership at today’s press conference in Brooklyn. Here is an abbreviated transcript of some of the question-and-answer period with the press:
Is congestion pricing dead?
I don’t know that it’s dead or alive. I think what is clear is that we have not submitted a proposal by the deadline that the US Dept. of Transportation said we’d have to submit it to be in contention for a share of the $1.2 billion.
Maybe we can do something to reduce congestion without that funding but [MTA President] Lee Sander is going to have a much tougher job. We won’t have $300 million per year in found money to spend on transit. We won’t have extra revenues for the MTA.
It’s fair to say that we have suffered a major set back. We’ve jeopardized a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to do something with someone else’s money.
I think it’s a disgrace.
What was the nature of Sheldon Silver’s proposal at the end of the day yesterday?
The only thing I saw was a proposal to do a study which would not qualify as the kind of proposal that the US DOT wanted. They wanted to fund proposals that would act as demonstration projects for the rest of the country.
Yesterday I heard a lot of talk about the politics of congestion pricing and how it was a difficult lift and a dangerous one, politically. Well, some people have guts and lead from the front and some don’t. [Senate Majority Leader] Joe Bruno was willing to vote. [Assembly Minority Leader] Jim Tedesco had all his members up in Albany. Unfortunately the majority leader was down here in new York City and he didn’t want to vote on it.
Want to see some guts? Look at the City Council here in New York City. Think about what they’ve done: The smoking ban — talk about things that are politically difficult. The solid waste management plan. How’d you like to have the courage to vote for something that makes a lot of people say "Not in my backyard." What about trans-fats? That wasn’t an easy lift. People are still complaining. But we’re getting it done. 421a, the Williamsburg-Greenpoint rezoning – all of those things took courage.
Does the demise of congestion pricing pretty well guarantee a transit fare increase?
Even with congestion pricing you can’t guarantee that there wouldn’t be a fare increase. But with it there would have been a lot more money for transit. [The mayor turns to MTA President Lee Sander] Lee, do you want to duck the issue? [Sander laughs and, well, ducks the issue].
Lee has a difficult row to hoe. We all want more transit and better transit. I don’t know anyone who thinks we don’t have to find another source of revenue.
But keep in mind, congestion pricing wasn’t just about bringing in money to pay for transit. It was about reducing the amount of time it takes to get from one place to another. It was about the air that we and our children are breathing.
I don’t understand how anyone can look a parent in the eye and say, "We’re going to do another study, until then, just don’t breathe deeply."
How are you taking this loss? Do you feel let down?
I’m gong to be fine. I’m going to fight for New York City for the next 898 days of my administration. I’ll tell you who should feel let down: the people breathing the air, the people trying to do business in the city, the 95% of people who commute by transit into this city. Those are the people who lost yesterday.
New York City is poorer today because of Albany’s inaction yesterday. Sadly, it appears that we lost a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and demonstrated, once again, that Albany does not seem to get it.